Antique Jewelry At Its Finest
The Victorian era in jewelry is named after Queen Victoria who reigned over Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1890. In this period, the jewelry was influenced by both historical and cultural events as well as numerous technological innovations that rose from the Industrial Revolution.
This era in jewelry is also known as the Romantic era, because of the Queen’s coronation and the fascination with a romanticized remembrance of the Medieval and Gothic periods. These motifs became popular in jewelry design.
Some of the most popular items of the Victorian era included serpents which were symbols of eternal love. It began when Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria an engagement ring featuring a snake. The revivalist movement among some important European goldsmiths (Guiliano, Castellani, Boucheron) was also notable and gold Etruscan and Egyptian jewelry designs were fashioned.
Women during the Victorian era wore long and full-skirted dresses. They had high necklines and long sleeves. Bonnets were also worn on a daily basis and the styles were ornamented by subtle jewelry. In the evening women wore low-cut necklines and exposed their arms while arranging their hair into curled styles covering their ears. Since the ears were mostly covered, there was no need for earrings. Instead, women wore hair ornaments, brooches and bracelets made from materials such as gemstones, enamel, hair and gold.
The Victorian era was also focused on religion. There were many cross pendant necklaces which were worn as a sign of appreciation for God. As the years went by, the neckline was lowered and the necklaces became increasingly popular especially with the invention of the photographic portraits. At this time, women also wore locket necklaces containing portraits of their loved one which was a trend that perfectly suited the Victorian gentile romance and sentimentality.
After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, the Victorian era in jewelry took another turn. The Queen was the authority dictating the trends. With her rigid dress code as a widow, she required the court to do likewise and wear all black clothing and mourning jewelry.
Mourning jewelry became popular and was composed of black materials that were elegant and astonishing. From jet to black glass and black onyx, dozens of designs were made and the jewelry varied from the simple to the elaborate. Quite a bit of jewelry was crafted with hair from the deceased and the taste for it coincided with the taste for memento mori which was a style of photography which meant “remember you shall die”. As a result, skeletons, skulls and other dark motifs became present in pendants, brooches and rings.
There was also a lighter way of expressing sentiment with jewelry that was best represented through the cameos of loved ones. However, the entire Victorian connection with cameos came from Europe’s fascination with ancient cultures such as Rome and the Classical world.
The industrialization and modern machinery changed some trends. As a result, metalworking was performed on a mass scale and jewelry was mass produced. At this time Victorian jewelry became larger in scale and worn by more women.
From the stones which were believed to have mystic powers to the actual influence of Queen Victoria, the best way to describe the Victorian jewelry era is as a period influenced by cultural changes. The jewelry served as a unique way to express sensibility, love and remembrance or mourning.